This post has been a long time coming. I’ve delayed writing it because the experience has been frustrating. This is where I finally talk about my job, the reason I was able to stay in Spain for a second year. So get ready.
1. In theory, sending native English speakers like myself into a Spanish school to teach Spanish children the English language sounds like a good idea. English is an important language to learn nowadays, that’s a fact (and could be the subject of an entire post, so please don’t argue with me on this one). Spain seems to be slowly catching onto this as evidenced by this program I’m doing. However, things are just more disorganized in this country and this program is no exception. There is a severe lack of communication between everybody and everybody seems to have different expectations. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this experience, it’s that communication and organization are two important keys to success.
2. So in theory I “teach” English. But honestly I feel like a glorified babysitter. Without getting into specifics, I was being taken advantage of and blamed for things that were out of my control. There were a lot of tears and a lot of “What the hell am I doing?” A lot has to do with the fact I have 0 teaching experience. I’m not going into more detail than that, because I do not feel like rehashing the experience. Most of you who know me already know what happened behind the scenes anyways.
3. A lot of the learning happens on the job. The very first day the door was closed on me and I was left alone with the kids (the alone with the kids part was a major source of contention) I had no idea what I was doing. I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, but I guess I’m better at hiding it.
4. Part of the difficulties I encounter have to do with motivating the students. I teach elementary school children and fourth grade and under, I don’t have too many problems. However for fifth and sixth grade, it’s more of a challenge. My class doesn’t count for a grade, there are no exams, and no homework. By the time a child is 10 or 11 years old, he or she realizes that there is no grade in my class, therefore there isn’t motivation to participate or do well. I don’t know about you, but motivating children who don’t want to be motivated is mildly challenging if you ask me.
5. We were told in the beginning of the year only to speak in English to the children. I understand this, no problem, my job is to “teach” English. However, some people seem to think we can fool the children into thinking we don’t know how to speak Spanish. This might work with the little ones, but I think adults sometimes fail to realize kids are a lot smarter than we think they are. The children are going to hear us speak Spanish eventually–whether it’s in the classroom or in the hallway talking to another teacher. It’s going to happen. Also, how is a foreigner supposed to survive in a foreign country if he or she doesn’t know basic knowledge of the native language? I’m 100% sure this thought has occurred to the kids. I once got spotted reading a Spanish newspaper and was asked how I could read it if I didn’t know Spanish.
Seriously, kids aren’t stupid. Being told to pretend I don’t understand Spanish in a room full of Spanish speaking children in Spain has been one of the most idiotic things I’ve been told to do in my life.
So in brief, you have 5 bullet points as to what frustrates me the most about this program: lack of communication and disorganization, the feeling I have no idea what I’m doing, lack of experience, trying to motivate the kids, and pretending I can’t speak Spanish.